Norwegian humanists criticise religious education after school


Northern Europe


Children playing during the after-school programme in Norway. Photo Facebook, Lillestrøm kommune

Parents in Norway can enrol their children in religious education after school hours. Now, the Human-Ethical Association believes this violates the laws of the Storting.

"We understand that religious education should not take place in the after-school period and that this was expressed by the Storting", says Lars-Petter Helgsestad to Vart Land. The department head for politics and international work at het Human Ethical Association (HEF) refers to the option that the Church of Norway offers to children who want to receive religious education during an after-school programme.

In the autumn of 2022, the Norwegian government introduced an offer of a 12-hour after-school programme for first graders. Municipalities are obliged to offer after-school arrangements (SFO) during the school year. The arrangement is meant to be different from school and is also separate from the educational system, the website of the Norwegian government reads.

Last March, the HEF e-mailed the State Administrator in Oslo, accusing the Church of Norway in Skedsmo of teaching children religious education at several schools in the after-school programme (SFO). According to the HEF, the congregation invited children from the first and third grades to a club where they could make assignments and solve riddles about Bible stories.

Opening hours

That goes against the Storting's recommendation from 2005 about changes to the Church Act, the HEF believes. That text reads that" faith education shall not be carried out during the opening hours of the after-school programme."

However, the State Administrator disagreed with the organisation. According to the Administrator, the statement from 2005 does not apply to this situation. No ban on religious education during the after-school programme was adopted, the State Administrator argued. Instead, the SFO should be based on "fundamental values in Christian and humanist heritage and tradition, such as respect for human dignity and nature, on freedom of spirit, charity, forgiveness, equality and solidarity."


Lars-Petter Helgestad from the HEF says he is surprised by that response. "The state administrator in Oslo and Viken does not point to the basis for why what the Storting said in 2005 is not relevant today." Therefore, he wants confirmation from the Ministry of Education that the statement does apply to SFOs as well. "There is no free way for religious education in SFO", Helgestad believes.



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